Lent. Do you have to be religious to enjoy lent? I don’t think so, it’s like Christmas. It’s nice to find excuses in our lives to treat ourselves a bit better than normally. So why not use lent, Christmas, Easter holidays or whatever else as a little trigger to be better, to be happier. (Incidentally, this time of the year is probably when I am most religious, but for very different reasons.). But anyway, I am going to celebrate lent again this year. I am not going to feel hypocritical about it, and I’m hopefully gonna come out the other side an even happier and healthier human.Surely that’s what the big fella up there wants anyway?!?!
For me, this lent is not going to be about sacrifice. Fuck it, let’s face it, once I get a taste for pancakes today, they are going to feature a lot in my diet over the next 3-4 weeks. So if you’re like me and you’re genuinely not capable of giving up sweets, chocolate, crisps, roller-blading or anything else that you enjoy…don’t even try. Take the clever way out and take up something instead. That’s what I’m doing, I’m taking up better wellness.
Wellness. What actually is it?
Now I hate using definitions but sometimes they are necessary. The World Health Organisation basically say that wellness is the awareness and active process in the pursuit of health. And health, they now say is no longer just the absence of disease or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. But for the sake of my own wellness and health, I am throwing another dimension in there. Spiritual wellness. (At this point try not to freak out. I’m not a Jehovah’s Witness and I didn’t find Jesus, spiritual wellness is not exactly what it says on the tin).
My own personal wellness can be described pretty easily using this iceberg image:
Wellness is very important to me. When I close my eyes and try to visualise what I want my life to be like, I see myself sitting like a Buddha, watching the sea, drinking tea with friends. However the reality is me sitting on my own, with panda eyes and popcorn bits all over my jumper gazing at Tony Soprano for the 4th consecutive hour. Just like in this picture, I have healthy values and beliefs, but very unhealthy behaviours (a bit like Tony himself actually)… But not for long!!!
Here are my four steps to better wellness this lent by touching on the four most important dimensions IMO. It’s also important to note that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to increasing our wellness. Everybody should approach their wellness in their own way. But do consider these four goals and have a think about how you might tailor them for you.
Spiritual Wellness. This is the one that I have been struggling to even grasp. It could be just because of the word spiritual. I need to disconnect that word from religion or God. Being spiritual is something different. It can be just doing nothing. Have you ever realised how feckin difficult it is to do nothing? You should try it. For me I get uncomfortable when I am alone with my thoughts, so in one sweeping movement I reach for my phone, dial in my password, tap on the Twitter icon, refresh my feed and ahhh I’m safe again. I become like a child in a hypnotic state watching Peppa Pig. Paul O’Connell, Jennifer Lawrence and Sloth from The Goonies could walk into the room and still I could be in my own little Twitter world and not even pay any heed to them.
ANYWAY…. This is something that I must change for the better and I have decided to change it through mindfulness/meditation (guess what? they are the same thing). (And also guess what? Every professional sportsperson or performer in their right mind practices mindfulness, so get over it.) To help me achieve this goal, I am drawing on inspiration from a public figure that I’ve always looked up to. Niall Breslin. Niall and Co. have set up a great social enterprise called A Lust for Life, a national movement for wellbeing. As part of this social enterprise, Fiona O’Donnell, a Psychology Master and Mindfulness Teacher has produced a 4 week introduction to mindfulness online course for us to follow. With daily meditations and 4 interesting blogs to accompany them , I believe that this is the easiest way for me to be introduced to the practice of mindfulness.
Side note.. What I really like about this is that Fiona has a lovely neutral Irish accent that is easy to listen to and relax to. Whenever I try guided meditation and I hear an American accent, I last about 20-30 seconds.. I don’t know why, and I cannot explain it. Maybe it is just a barrier in my own head for some reason, but it is the truth. Sorry America.
Physical Wellness. Okay, fuck it (I’ve just read Sarah Knight’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck’, so I would apologise for the bad language but I wouldn’t mean it). As I was saying, fuck it, I have to give credit where credit is due. My physical fitness is very good.
I can run faster and further than most people I know BUT I cannot touch my toes, I never could.. Therefore if I want my good physical health to last, it’s time for me to start some maintenance. I do not want to be one of these people who has to huff and puff when picking myself out of a chair. This lent I am persisting with yoga. My goal is to go to at least one class a week, but also to follow a free online 30 day yoga for men challenge that looks perfectly achievable for a beginner like me. The videos are literally 10-15 minutes long, how hard could it be?
If you are planning similar challenges but feel like you need a more exercise centred approach to your physical wellness, make sure you find the right exercise for you. Find one that you will enjoy and wish to continue. Click here for a link to a previous blog on the most important things to consider when deciding on what is the best exercise for you.
Social Wellness. This is a prime example of how each of our own approaches should be different. There is no two people who have the exact same amount of social competence, friends and networks. We all need to look at our own social wellness in different ways. For me, I have a more intimate relationship with my phone than I do with any of my friends (and that’s social intimacy for any scoundrels out there). The same can be said for my laptop and even my TV. I would say that I spend significantly more time looking at a TV screen than I do at other people. That’s kind of sad isn’t it?
So friends, this is where you start locking your doors and closing your blinds, because Brian is calling around for a cup of tea and a chat! This is not only a lent thing either, I hope that this is a foreseeable future personal intervention. From this day forward, I plan to spend more time with humans, than I do with technology. And that includes my technology based mindfulness and yoga course over lent….. I wonder if I could log my time and actually measure it? Or would my friends then think I was just using them to put in the time?? Maybe I won’t log it so….
Mental Wellness. I’ve saved this for last because I want to point out that even by leaving it there and just doing the 3 challenges above, I will see a spike in my serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin levels, so effectively I am absolutely developing a positive mental health…. This brings me along to the last challenge rather nicely because, if like me, you didn’t understand a word that I just typed there. I have the thing for you….and me.
The Science of Happiness is a free 8 week online course. (fucking more technology!! Actually scrap that 3rd one and I’ll come up with something else) It is developed by Berkely University California, so it must be good. I was introduced to it by the coolest Scotswoman you’d ever meet named Zoe while on a Wellness training course in Czech Republic a few months back. She really sold it to us, even more so than they sell it here in their ‘wee’ promo video (and now I’m typing with a Scottish accent in my head). I have decided to enroll in this course and yes I know it’s 8 weeks long and Jesus only gave up sweets for 40 days, but sometimes you gotta push your boundaries. So the whole idea is, as they say in the video, that by understanding the science behind that 40% of what makes us happy, we are more likely to practice those things aaaaaand…be happier!!! :).
Thank you for reading again, I hope you liked it. If you did, I will be posting a follow up blog after lent to let you know how I got on and to see how well…er?? I am.. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to make myself sick with pancakes… Adios.